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How to care for your garden during a heatwave and a hosepipe ban

The hotter weather has led to yellow grass and struggling plants for many. Here’s how to care for your garden during a heatwave without wasting water.

Thanks to an unusually dry spring and summer, plus a heatwave, our gardens and parks are looking a lot less healthy than usual, from yellow grass to wilting plants.

A lack of rain has created yellow grass across the southern parts of the UK especially as well as drying up reservoirs and streams.

Meanwhile, with warnings on water use and hosepipe bans like the one announced by Thames Water on Tuesday, gardeners can’t keep their gardens well-watered in the way they might like to.

The situation has left lots of people wondering how best to look after their garden during a heatwave, and whether their yellow grass, plants and gardens are dead or just dormant. 

That’s why we asked the experts for all the tips you need to keep your outdoor space healthy during the hotter weather.

Is yellow grass dead?

Yellow grass is a symptom of drought, meaning prolonged periods of hot, dry weather. But it may not be dead.

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Grass that’s exposed to the sun is more likely to turn yellow as the sun is stressing the lawn.

According to Astrid Biddle, ecologist and botanist at Hertfordshire Wildlife Trust, the best way to tell whether or not your grass is dead is to tug the grass.

“If the grass pulls out from the ground easily, it is likely to be dead. If the roots hold firm when tugged, the plants may be dormant,” she said.

If the grass is dormant, this means it is likely to recover and turn green again once it rains. 

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Should I water my yellow grass?

Grass is generally very resilient so you don’t need to worry about watering it. 

Under areas covered by a hosepipe ban, you are forbidden from watering your lawn with a hosepipe anyway. 

“Gardeners should not water their grass during a heatwave because water is so scarce. Increased domestic use of water has a disastrous effect on rivers, ponds and lakes as they become more depleted of water and wildlife suffers,” Biddle said. 

“The more water used by people the less there is available in rivers and streams. Water levels become dangerously low as water companies continue to extract water from rivers.

“The pollution in rivers becomes more concentrated, the shallow water heats up leading to algal blooms and deoxygenated water, which can be harmful to wildlife and people,” she added.

Leaving grass longer rather than mowing it can also help it recover after warmer weather.

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My plants are struggling in the heat – what should I do? 

One easy way to help any plants that appear to be struggling in the hotter weather is to move them into the shade. 

Paul de Zylva of Friends of the Earth recommends only watering those plants that are looking particularly dry, and only with a watering can.

“Use a watering can to water plants in pots or shrubs and trees that are looking particularly dry,” he said.

He also recommends watering plants during the cooler parts of the day such as the early morning, and only watering the base. 

“Plants don’t want or need water on their leaves especially during the heat of the day when water droplets can lead to plants being scorched. 

Putting down mulch can also help your plants retain moisture without wasting water.

Longer term, Biddle recommends switching up your planting to include more heat-resistant varieties.

“Gardeners could also consider changing their planting to more drought-resistant species longer term – such as Rock Hyssop and Lavender which are also good for wildlife,” she said. 

You don’t need to worry about yellow grass as grass is generally very hardy and will bounce back, unlike some plant varieties.

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How much should I be watering my garden generally?

Because the UK is set to enter a drought period, it’s important to try and conserve water as much as possible.

This means avoiding unnecessary water wastage on plants or yellow grass wherever possible.

You could consider collecting waste shower water in buckets to water your garden, as well as setting up rain butts to collect waste water when it does eventually rain again. 

You should prioritise watering plants that are recently established, as these are the most vulnerable.

Grass and already established plants are much hardier in the heat. 

How can I help wildlife in my garden during the heatwave?

It’s not just plants suffering in the hotter weather, but wildlife too. 

You can help wildlife in your garden in a variety of ways, from leaving wild patches to grow to creating shady spots.

“In a heatwave, animals need water too. Instead of watering your lawn, leave out a water-filled container for birds to drink from and wash in, and saucers or shallow bowls of water with stones in for thirsty bees and other insects to safely perch on while drinking,” DeZylva said.

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